Comic Picks By The Glick

Because writing for the trade is STOOOOPID!

June 28, 2011

I haven’t said anything about the “DC 52” relaunch mainly because I’ve been busy absorbing what everyone else has been saying about it.  Personally, I think that re-starting EVERYTHING with a new #1 issue is a bit of genius.  This should mean that all 52 issues are a perfect jumping on point for anyone with an interest in these characters and creative teams.  At least, that should be the plan since while a lot of stuff is apparently being rebooted, the titles that were working fine before (most of the “Batman” and “Green Lantern” titles) are going to treat this as a speed bump before getting right back to business.  It’s certainly a ballsy move, but it’s hard not to be a little skeptical that they’re not going to screw it up in some way.

Anyway, an interesting tidbit came out earlier today courtesy of comic book store owner Mike Gendreau (courtesy of Rich Johnston).  Mike was at the DC’s Retailer Roadshow in New York last Friday and while he caught a lot of details about the books themselves, one part of their plan stood out to me:

“Another change DC is making is that they won’t be ‘writing for the trade’ anymore.  Writers have been told to write the story they want to write and not worry about the trade collecting.  If they can tell a well-paced story in 4 issues, they’ve been told not to pad it to make it 6 issues.  Editorial can worry about how it’s going to be collected.  Going forward, books will be trade-collected depending on how the story fits.  If a book has a 4-issue arc followed by a 3 issue arc, the trade will collect both.  If it’s 2 4-issue arcs or 3 2-issue stories, those will get collected.”

Now it’s been evident that both Marvel and DC have been doing this for a while, but this is the first evidence that I’ve seen to indicate that it was an internal mandate.  As someone who almost exclusively “waits for the trade,” I have to say that this kind of thing is fucking stupid.

Extending a story to six issues because a trade paperback usually collects six issues is an utterly moronic way to write a story.  Yes, it may read better once collected, but your primary audience is buying it monthly in quantities far greater than you’ll likely sell in that form.  You owe it to them to provide enough worthwhile content in each issue to keep them coming back for more.  I don’t know about other “trade-waiters” but the main reason I wait for them is because I’ve never liked waiting 30 days (or more) for a story that I can finish in under ten minutes to be continued.  Single issues have never felt like a value to me, and that’s why I’ll (with a few rare exceptions) only pick them up if they’re not going to be collected.  Besides, if a story is good, it’s worth will come through in both single issue form and in the trade paperback.  Walt Simonson didn’t write his legendary run on “Thor” with the trade in mind, and it still read pretty well when they collected it in that Omnibus edition twenty-plus years later.

It’s sad that DC is only realizing this now as sales for both companies continue to slump towards oblivion.  It’d be amazing if this initiative actually did get more customers into shops and started a sales renaissance... but, as I said above, when was the last time a major comic book company tried to do something like this and not screw it up in the process.  I don’t know how they’ll do it, I just know that DC will find some way to and then the comics blogosphere will descend upon its corpse and try to figure out what happened.

In the meantime, I’ll be looking forward to seeing Geoff Johns’ continuing run on “Green Lantern,” Scott Snyder on “Batman” (his “Detective Comics” work hasn’t been collected yet, but I hear it’s excellent), and Grant Morrison on “Superman” (do I need to explain this -- didn’t think so).  I’m also interested in “Justice League Dark” as there’s a perverse appeal in having formerly Vertigo-exclusive characters like John Constantine and Shade the Changing Man interacting with the rest of the DCU.  Hopefully writer Peter Milligan is genuinely invested in this concept and not just doing it for a paycheck.

Will I be buying any of these in single-issue form?  Heck no.  I suppose that makes me part of the problem, but there would have to be some very special incentive in these single issues to get me to pick them up before the trade comes out.  That said, I wish that DC also had the balls to have found a way to bring the majority of the line to $1.99, and told Marvel to “Suck it!”  The ensuing press firefight would’ve been something to see.

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